2020 Seniors: Experiencing COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all differently. Parents have adjusted their work schedules and routines, moving from traditional workplace settings to work-from-home arrangements. Employers have become increasingly flexible to accommodate working parents’ needs. Educators have adjusted to the virtual world quickly and with little to no training. Small business owners and entrepreneurs continually adjust to new CDC guidelines and regulations; for some, the pandemic has spelled economic disaster. For others, the pandemic has helped their businesses flourish. And what about college students? College senior Brooke Talley shares her personal experience during the coronavirus pandemic.

college senior Brooke Talley COVID-19 pandemic

Talley, a senior at the University of Central Arkansas, is working to complete a degree in speech-language pathology. She has garnered experience as a sales representative, a branch manager, and in a clinic in hopes of increasing her odds of graduate school admission.

“After graduate school, I hope to put my soft skills to work in health sciences in a creative, inventive way by providing the best interventions for my clients,” she shares.

Challenges and motivations during the pandemic

Talley is transparent about the ups and downs of her senior year; it has been filled with both challenges and motivations.

“Senior year is filled with important, scary-sounding classes and the feeling like you’re drinking from a fire hydrant of information,” Talley admits.

She notes the constant nagging thoughts related to what-ifs about grad school admission and questions about whether she’s studying hard enough. At the same time, Talley knows her desire to learn trumps grades and that her grades do not define her. She shares that she has decided to spend as much time as possible with her favorite people during her senior year.

Being a senior during the COVID-19 pandemic comes with unique challenges. It seems more challenging to find motivation when there is less structure.

“I have had to create a schedule for myself to follow so I can keep myself working toward deadlines at a steady pace. Without a schedule, I find myself thinking that I have plenty of time, which is a huge lie; I often only have two weeks left until a huge deadline! I also used to rely on extracurricular activities as a refresher and motivator, but now it’s all me,” Talley notes.

Talley expresses frustration with lack of connection to others, particularly friends and loved ones. While she knows others are struggling, too, she feels pressure knowing she may never get to see her friends again after graduation.

“I find myself waxing nostalgic. What are things I left unsaid–things I wish I would have set my studies down for just once? Road trips I missed out on?” Talley reflects.

After reflecting on these moments in the spring of 2020, Talley determined to improve her study-play balance in her final semester as a senior this fall.

Plans after college graduation

Because working as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) requires a master’s degree, Talley must attend graduate school. She is currently considering which graduate school best meets her needs and is completing applications. She hopes to gain experience in both a hospital setting and a rehabilitation center, both settings which challenge speech-language pathologists and provide creative treatments for patients.

“I love fast-paced environments. As a professional, I don’t want the same mundane case load – I want to be challenged with a wide variety of patients. I will have to experience a lot of settings before I find the right fit and hopefully find a job in my ideal field. Until then, I will just have to keep an open mind,” Talley states.

As 2020 college seniors plan their futures, whether their futures include graduate school or immediate job searches, may they encounter plenty of helping hands and friendly faces along the path. The path for these students has been rocky enough already.

Personal social media management: Don’t wear out your welcome

Here’s a thought on personal social media management: Don’t wear out your welcome.

Wearing out your welcome is easy to do. Think Cousin Eddie.

Uncle Eddie Like Totally 80sRemember your mom or grandma giving you that same advice about not wearing out your welcome when visiting friends in high school or college? Or when sitting in the hallway (covered in shag carpet, most likely) talking to your high school sweetheart, the lone house phone cord twirled around your finger seven times, cutting off circulation? Or when staying with relatives no more than three days out of town? No? Oh… well, my Gen X and late Millennial friends will get me on that one.

Sometimes we have a hard time reading other people. Why?

Because miscommunication just happens.

Think about the worst two or three job interviews or dates you’ve experienced in your lifetime. Chances are, miscommunication played a part in your misery. You might have HATED the interviewer or felt the role was a terrible fit. But did you communicate that clearly on the front end? Or at the point of realization? Maybe not… so it kept going. It may have created a horrible situation, albeit comical in retrospect.

When your wants and needs don’t match with the person’s wants and needs on the other end, there’s a good chance someone is going to walk away feeling hurt, disgruntled, annoyed, or at best, flattered but disinterested.

Miscommunication and marketing misalignment happen face-to-face as well as online.

handshake business meetingYou feel you hit it out of the park–yet your potential client never returns your calls. You think your initial meeting went SO well. You were sensing great energy. You gave your spiel. And crickets for days…

Or you’re so excited to share about your friend or colleague’s newest business venture, just to help her get off the ground. So you reach out to your network. You send invitations to a few hundred of your contacts on a social media platform. And only three of them accept. You feel disheartened. To make matters worse, a few of them change their settings, disabling you from sending future invitations to “Like” or “Follow” Pages. You’re offended! It’s not like you sent them an email chain letter six times in a row, right?

Remember what your mom told you 20 years ago about wearing out your welcome?

Same applies to social media management in the personal realm.

It is not JUST about wearing out your welcome or overusing personal influence within your network. It’s about the bigger picture of miscommunication and misalignment of mission or brand.

Here are a few common reasons for miscommunication and misalignment:

  • We make assumptions.
    • We love our friend’s business. Shouldn’t everyone we love? We don’t mind receiving 5-10 invitations to Like or Follow Pages per day. Why would anyone else? We love hearing about others’ business ventures when we scroll through our personal news feeds (not on LinkedIn, which is a professional networking site… I’m talking about personal social platforms, i.e. Facebook and Instagram). Why wouldn’t everyone else want their feeds full of this stuff? Reality: They are not we.
  • We communicate using only words (channel-lean communication) and hope our entire intended message is coming across clearly, concisely, and powerfully.
    • Spoiler alert: It’s not. Unless you’re a professional writer or marketing expert, it’s just not. This is one reason I am offering some free tips at the end of this article. So keep reading.
  • Our non-verbal message doesn’t match our words.
    • Too often, especially when we’re interacting face-to-face or over the phone, our voice tone, facial expressions, and gestures simply don’t match the words we say.
  • Our previous behavior, mannerisms, tone, or online brand doesn’t match our magical transition into the upbeat unicorn we’ve become.
    • In short, we’re not trustworthy experts or representatives. ‘Nuff said.
  • We’re selfish, or we’re afraid, or we’re egotistical.
    • Or all of those things. And when those things fuel our messages, we’re setting ourselves (and the receivers of our messages) up for either miscommunication or worse.
  • We don’t think clearly or carefully about our target audience, the audience’s needs/wants, or how to reach them well before hitting “send.”

Right now more than ever before, we’re all utilizing social media and digital marketing like crazy (and if we’re not, we better be… more on that in this video). This means we need to be more mindful than ever before about how we utilize social media, even personally.

Many people have previously used social media as a simple tool for connecting with friends and family members. This is fine–except when these same people attempt to use social media professionally or mix their personal and professional worlds on platforms intended for personal networking, it gets messy. Their online followers become confused (and sometimes annoyed) by the cacophony of content suddenly streaming in their feeds. It can be difficult to discern a person’s true identity in terms of predictability. Unless you know a person well and have known the person for years, you might find the new onslaught of invitations to like business Pages, recommendations to try products, and dozens of private online sales parties a turn-off.

How can you practice mindful social media management practices on personal social media profiles?

How can you show support to your friends’ businesses while avoiding miscommunication and misalignment?

  • Before asking friends to support a cause, “Like” or “Follow” a friend’s business or Page, etc., PAUSE.

Consider this. Let’s say you are connected to 1,000 friends, family members, and colleagues on Facebook. How many times can you persuade them–realistically–to consider your opinion and take it to heart? How many times will they act based on your recommendation? Odds are, not many. Use your influence sparingly and wisely.

  • Take action offline.

It’s wonderful to write, post, and rant about how much you love a business or nonprofit organization. But have you gone offline? Have you purchased a product or service from that business? Have you volunteered, served, or sponsored? Bought a gift card lately? Dropped by to check on the owner?

Put actions to your words. Rather than invite others to Like and Follow her Page, post pictures of you supporting her business–drinking a coffee she brewed, donning a necklace she handcrafted, or mailing a gift card she signed. Your post is a little more subtle. But it’s more effective because you will be promoting the product or service while indicating your direct support, too.

When you shove something down someone’s throat, chances are, that person’s going to choke… not taste it.

  • Spend more time planning posts than you do posting.

branding webinar 1This is what mindful social media management is about. If you’re considering writing or posting in support of an organization or business, PAUSE. Wait at least 24 hours. Think about HOW you can best support that organization or business. ASK the owner: “Would a meme, a video, or a text-only post best support you right now?” or “Would it help you more if I invited five of my carefully chosen friends to Like or Follow your Page, or would it help you more if I wrote a recommendation of your business on Google?” Rather than selfishly selecting what is easy for you to do, do what will help your friend more.

Here are some ways to show support of businesses and organizations you love.

Some of these suggestions require more than clicking a button online. But these suggestions matter to business owners and nonprofit leaders. They matter because the outcomes of these actions make a big difference.

  • Write recommendations on social media, Yelp, Glassdoor, or Google.
  • Host a mini fundraiser for a nonprofit organization you love.
  • Volunteer. Even if it’s a one-time gig, your time is invaluable.
  • Donate goods, services, or products.
  • Create videos endorsing your favorite business or nonprofit.
  • Be funny. Create hilarious memes featuring your favorite product, service, or employee.
  • Send snail mail. Write a thank you card to the business owner or leader. Actions like these boost the spirits of hard-working people more than you can imagine.
  • Spend your money. If you are able, support the business you love financially. Eat at that restaurant. Purchase a handmade coffee mug. Consider hiring a local lawn care expert.

If you feel guilty after reading this article because you’ve mismanaged social media for way too long, that’s good! That means you’re ready to grow and improve. Let me know when you’re ready to change–I can help.





COVID-19 and the long-term changes to the workplace landscape

Yes–things are different. Change can be overwhelming. But all things in our lives will continue to change. And we must, as a society and as leaders in the workplace, adapt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID stress leaderHow are you–as a leader in the workplace or as a business owner–adapting? Five or six weeks in, it’s time to adapt if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, panicked, or frustrated. If that describes how you’re feeling, I genuinely suggest you seek help through a life coach or professional counselor. I can refer you to excellent professionals who offer online services. This pandemic may be the most traumatic thing you’ve experienced, and that’s nothing to apologize for; it is something to face.

Here are some ways I see the COVID-19 pandemic permanently altering the workplace landscape FOR GOOD in the United States.

Disclaimer: There are plenty of ways this pandemic and our national response have altered the economic and workplace landscapes in negative ways. Other people can write about negative impacts and outcomes. Let’s dig into the good stuff.

Many full-time employees in very rigid, traditional workplace settings have gained the opportunity to work remotely.

Will this be temporary? I don’t think any of us know about exact time frames yet. But I believe this forced workplace experiment will permanently alter the workplace landscape. Employees who might have otherwise never gained this opportunity have now had it. Have they liked it or not? Either way, yay for experimentation and opportunity!

work from home remote workA word of advice to employees who have been working remotely and have enjoyed it: Don’t give it up. Do not return to work and to business as usual without attempting to retain your flexibility if you love working from home. If you were able to perform your tasks in a productive manner from home, why not ask if you can continue working this way? You could request to work remotely. Or you could request to work one or two days per week from home. If working remotely does not hinder your performance or make it difficult on others in any way, there should be no reason your employer should say no. There’s never harm in asking.

Here’s another suggestion: If you ask, and your employer says no, ask why. Take notes.

Keep those notes, and then begin looking for another job with more flexibility. It might take you a long time to find the right fit. But it’s better to look for something better for two years than to spend the next 20 years feeling unsettled or disgruntled.

Many traditional, rigid employers have been forced to allow employees–who begged for flexibility and remote employment opportunities–the chance to work from home.

And guess what? We’re not hearing countless reports of employees blowing it. They’re holding it together even though they’re simultaneously teaching children and parenting.  Isn’t that AMAZING? Grown, responsible adults doing jobs without other adults walking around every 30 minutes to watch over them… Crazy. During this pandemic, while wearing multiple hats, if your employees been able to be even half as productive, they are proving that working from home is a conceivable option.

work from homeWill these same employers continue to allow flexibility and remote work options to their employees when COVID-19 social distancing restrictions are lifted? I hope so. I hope employers have learned a valuable lesson about trusting employees to behave responsibly.

A word of warning to traditional employers who are chomping at the bit to return to their rigid ways: Be careful. Your employees have likely enjoyed flexibility. They probably don’t like commuting or sitting in uncomfortable, poorly ventilated, outdated offices. Maybe they are working while wearing pajamas. And they might not like you, either, or looking at your face daily. So if you’re going to reject requests to continue working remotely, be prepared with legitimate reasons.

A better option: Say yes—or say yes partially. You don’t have to allow employees to work remotely all the time. Flexibility is wonderful. Allow employees in a department to work out their own schedules with some at home on Mondays, and some at home on Fridays. People are pretty creative, responsible, and productive. Keep them accountable, meet regularly, and ask them to produce solid results. But try trusting them–and see what happens. You have already survived this pandemic. Why not give flexibility a chance?

Some clients have reported that as a result of COVID restrictions, they were forced to cut budgets.

They had to lay off more than half their staff. In some cases, they told staff they hoped to rehire when restrictions were lifted. In other cases, employers did not make promises.

One client privately disclosed that she was grateful for this pandemic for one reason: it forced her to trim the fat. She knew some employees were unproductive and ineffective. Those employees took too much time to manage. Yet she liked those employees as individuals, so she hesitated to fire them. The pandemic gave her the perfect opportunity to get rid of them. They could apply for unemployment–better unemployment benefits than usual–and she could permanently lower costs.

Many employers may not admit this, but I have a feeling this has happened in multiple organizations across the United States. If you’re a business owner, however you do it, maybe trimming the fat isn’t a bad idea right now. How have you been wasting money, time, or energy? Who has been spending too much time killing time at work? Are there tasks you’ve been outsourcing to someone who is not a true expert–you just have a really great relationship with the contractor? Maybe it’s time to evaluate your budget and develop a better business plan.

Colleges and universities may need to evolve (once again) to offer more “essential employees” degree plans, vocational training, and fast-track certifications.

How many Gen Z high school students will consider majoring in physical therapy now? Almost all physical therapists have been out of work this entire time. Dentists, too. Did anyone ever think a dentist would be unable to perform services and generate income? I didn’t.

This pandemic is a game changer in terms of forcing higher education administrators to reconsider the world of academia. Small, private, liberal arts institutions were already floundering, with enrollment down and finances amiss. More traditional institutions with faculty members who were afraid to even upload grades online? Gosh. Welcome to online learning management systems and to teaching exclusively online with a one week learning curve. Bless them. I can’t wait to see what’s on the course schedule for fall 2020 at the most progressive institutions. Those institutions will attract and retain students. And their students will obtain high-paying jobs which stand the test of time–and all the crazy stuff the world will throw at them, too.

And lastly, if you have been preaching to your business owner or manager about the importance of online branding, brand awareness, digital marketing, content management, or social media management, congratulations. YOUR TIME IS NOW.

social media managementAll my traditional clients who hesitated to consider these avenues for branding, marketing, and outreach are now nervous. They’re scrambling to find money to pay for a content management strategic plan (and its implementation). They know they must hire someone to manage their social media and other digital content (email marketing, blog, web content, etc.). In a time when people are mostly home-bound, practicing social distancing, and working remotely, the online market is all we have. And we know that if we attempt to reach people where they aren’t, we’re just fishing in dry ponds.

If you’re panicking, too, because you know your online brand amounts to a Facebook Page created in 2016 by a college student who volunteered for you one summer, it’s okay. Really–you will be okay. But you need help. So either hire a local professional or contact me, and we can figure that out.

Do you foresee other permanent changes in the landscape of the national workplace? I’d love to read your feedback. Please share your thoughts in the comments on this blog post. Thank you for taking the time to read and share with others.


Social media engagement: A gift?

Fulfilling your mission: Brand awareness via social media management

One way I help fulfill fulfill nonprofit organizations’ missions is by building brand awareness via social media. I’m no newbie to social media management. I have used it to communicate in the workplace since joining Facebook and LinkedIn almost 15 years ago.

adult-casual-coffee-1437541What’s different about managing social media for a nonprofit organization?

Typically, a nonprofit’s organization’s target audience is more varied. It includes potential and existing donors, employees, volunteers, clients/customers, board members, and community members. Creating and managing content for a varied audience can prove challenging but isn’t impossible. Focusing tightly on the organization’s mission, and highlighting examples of mission fulfillment, appeals to all audience members.

But the biggest difference? Social media engagement is a gift.

Social media management: A gift?

As a nonprofit organization, you rely heavily on donations and in-kind gifts to fulfill your mission, serve clients, and operate effectively. Thus, each click, follow, like, comment, and share on social media platforms aids in fulfilling your mission, increasing brand awareness, and encouraging financial giving. Did you know that across the world, 68% of donors prefer to give digitally (online or via text messaging)?

2018 Global Trends in Giving Report
2018 Global Trends in Giving Report

Social media management deceives many leaders. It looks easy, right? But to appropriately and effectively communicate online requires skill, practice, and expertise. If you don’t want to miss the chance to connect with 68% of donors who prefer to give online or digitally, up your social game.

Are you optimizing your organization’s use of social media? Do you understand that a 20 year-old college student who repeatedly likes and shares your content may eventually choose to volunteer to tutor your students, to host a fundraiser online, to tell her parents about your organization, to ask her coworkers to sponsor an event, or to pledge a monthly gift? Keeping the big picture in mind when managing social media is crucial for successful nonprofit social media management.

Contact me if you want help creating a social media management plan or keynote presentation on mindful social media management.

Feeling the pain: Employers respond to the soft skills deficit

The soft skills deficit

Five years ago, while teaching full-time as an English instructor at a community college, I became painfully aware of my students’ lack of soft skills. When I walked into class, I greeted my students. Many times, only a few would respond. The rest stared blankly at their smartphones. When I passed students on campus, I noticed similar behavior. Lots of heads in phones. Lots of headphones on. Lots of blank, sad faces. When students chose to engage in conversation, they often seemed awkward and unsure about what to say and how to interact.


At first, I assumed they simply lacked strong communication skills. Since I taught English Comp and Oral Communication, I made it my mission to educate and re-mediate. I tried. But I couldn’t help students who didn’t register for my courses. And I also couldn’t force feed unwilling mouths (or brains).

That was 2014. There was something in the air… it was a real turning point in the way I viewed my students. Why?

The role of technology

At first I assumed my own perception had simply changed, or I’d just gained new awareness. But statistics prove it wasn’t my perception after all. Pew Research data from 2014-15 cites that Gen Z respondents claimed to use their smartphones “several times a day,” while VisionCritical research shows that Gen Z respondents in 2015 spent an average of 15.4 hours per week on their smartphones and another 10.6 hours on their laptops. And if you want to really dig into learning about the soft skills gap, pick up a copy of Bruce Tulgan’s fantastic book on this topic (I’m a huge fan).

As employers and educators, we are starting to feel the effects of Gen Z’s addiction to digital devices and internet access. In the end, digital natives grow up and become candidates for employment. And guess who’s left to deal with the great chasm between the ideal candidate profile, which features strong soft skills (which we all need to work well with others), and the reality of today’s average candidate? The employer. YOU.

What are you going to do about it?

I hope you’re feeling the pain as you read this. I’m not trying to be mean. But I know this to be true–most of us simply won’t take action and make changes until we feel pain or desperation. And most of us won’t spend money on training until we notice negative effects in the workplace.

For years, researchers (ahem… like me) have shared statistics, information, and tips about soft skills training, the soft skills gap, and the need for awareness about this upcoming epidemic. Unfortunately, most employers and educators didn’t take action. Developing training programs takes time, costs money, and can feel incredibly frustrating. Why should you have to pay for training? Isn’t it the university’s problem or failure? Maybe. Why should the university have to deal with it? Isn’t it the high school’s fault or failure? Maybe. Why should the high school have to handle it? Shouldn’t the parents do a better job? Probably.

Choices and actions


When we stop pointing fingers, we’ll ultimately realize we’re left with two choices:

1. Continue ignoring the problem. This will get us into a greater bind, lead to organizational chaos, and cause our businesses to lose more money and become less productive.

2. Accept reality. We’re stuck with the problem, so let’s search for solutions.

Implement mentoring programs. Reevaluate your recruiting and hiring process. Take a hard look at your onboarding process. Train your trainers to teach soft skills, and if you have no full-time trainers, hire me to train your hiring managers to teach soft skills or to directly train entry-level employees or coach selected struggling employees.

There are solutions. And as with most situations in life, we become ready to take action when the fear of moving forward becomes less intimidating than the misery of our current situation.

I am here when you’re ready to move.

Contact me to discuss soft skills training, executive coaching, and other solutions.


Truth-telling in the workplace

It’s the age of truth-telling in the workplace. #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport are shaking things up; many people who have kept quiet for years are becoming brave enough to find voices.

What does this mean for human resources professionals? Awareness, training, and  attention to detail in reporting, as well as policies and procedures. And how does this affect other employees?

pexels-photo-622135While many victims of sexual harassment and assault feel emboldened to share their stories, others remain quiet for fear of losing their jobs or other forms of retaliation. Some employees may learn of situations involving harassment or assault in the workplace, yet fail to report these incidents for the same reasons.

Often, reporting sexual harassment or assault is difficult. Becoming a truth teller isn’t always the wide, easy path.

Let me tell you about two of my own experiences.

In my early 20s, while working in a middle management role, I was sexually harassed by a man in his 50s. He tried to convince me that I’d behaved in a way that gave him the impression that I wanted physical contact with him. He left my office angrily. He was in upper management and played a prominent role in the organization’s financial welfare.

I never reported the incident. Years later, I felt guilty for failing to report. I’m nearly certain I wasn’t the only woman he harassed. Yet at the time, I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation. Because I’d seen how similar reports were handled within the organization, I felt certain my report would either be brushed off, or that somehow, I would be the one to suffer (asked to leave or retaliated against), not him. I loved my job, and I didn’t want that to happen. So I kept quiet.

Fast forward 10 years.

I worked for a different organization. I learned that a colleague was enduring sexual harassment, and the perpetrator was in upper management. Without giving it much thought, I reported the incident. What happened afterward is the reason I kept quiet a decade earlier. I ultimately felt compelled to file retaliation charges with a government agency against the organization.

Here’s the real question I know you want to ask me: Do I regret reporting the incident on behalf of my colleague? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Were there repercussions due to reporting the incident? Yes. Would I still report the incident today? You better believe it.


There is never a wrong time to do the right thing. 

For me, reporting the second incident felt like the right thing to do–I had no doubts about that. There will never be a time when I will withhold the truth again in my life about my own suffering or the suffering of others. As a survivor of childhood sexual assault, and adult sexual harassment, and after keeping silent too many times, I no longer have the ability to remain quiet. It is my responsibility, and thankfully, it is my right.





An interview with Siddiqi Ray: A vision for entrepreneurs

Each business owner discovers the road to entrepreneurship differently. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing my friend, Siddiqi Ray, about her unique path to successful entrepreneurship.

Siddiqi Ray is an internationally acclaimed photographer, speaker, and coach. Prior to stepping out on her own as an entrepreneur, Siddiqi garnered experience in editorial photography, marketing, customer relations, graphic design, and higher education. Although Siddiqi didn’t start her own business immediately after graduating from college, she shares that her mentors planted entrepreneurial seeds in her as early as age 16 when she attended The Arts High School in New York.

“I’ve always been really good at seeking out mentors—either people who were where I wanted to be and doing what I wanted to do, or who had another quality they embodied that I realized I needed,” Siddiqi shares.

The importance of mentors

This led Siddiqi to pursue internships and career-related positions throughout high school and college. Her tenacity helped her land great positions later in life with organizations like The Mayo Clinic and with clients like The Navy SEALS and The Dalai Lama. However, as Siddiqi points out, translating impressive work experience into entrepreneurial success is often a struggle.

One of Siddiqi’s most noted mentors, who pushed her to pursue a career wholeheartedly in photography, was a professor at Tish School of the Arts at New York University (NYU). While Siddiqi entered the school expecting to pursue a career in videography, her professor noticed her true talent—photography—and urged her to take her camera and “go out and experience the world and live your vision.”

So she did.

Siddiqi notes that her professor’s words, care, and mentorship impacted her profoundly.

“That was such an amazing revelation—to have someone care enough about me and to see something in me that I couldn’t see in myself.” Siddiqi mentioned other mentors, friends, and colleagues who have impacted her similarly.

Discovering our own strengths & weaknesses as entrepreneurs

Siddiqi Ray photographer
Siddiqi Ray, internationally acclaimed photographer

“Sometimes we have that knowing, but it’s hidden in plain sight,” she muses.

When starting and growing businesses, many entrepreneurs struggle with inadequacies. For some, it’s their own soft skills or interpersonal skills, and for others, it’s character strengths and weaknesses. Siddiqi admits she wasn’t immune to this struggle; she grappled with one soft skill in particular which was both her greatest quality and the “bane of her existence”—and that was vision.

Siddiqi defines vision as the internal sense of knowing, a gut instinct, and a big picture ability to see where she wants to be and what she wants manifested in her career, business, and finances. Not all entrepreneurs and business owners possess this soft skill—that’s for certain. Many business owners are simply not big picture thinkers. Many, instead, muddle through details and have difficulty with even the simplest questions, like “Where do you see your business in five years?”

Not Siddiqi. She admits that the hard work for her happens in the space between the vision and the now. She shares that she often feels frustrated because she is not truly goal-oriented even though she is vision-oriented; she can get frustrated in the translation.

Siddiqi Ray’s advice to budding entrepreneurs

Siddiqi advises budding entrepreneurs to pursue, find, and believe in their own vision yet hold it loosely.

“Hold it loosely because something better may, and probably will, occur,” she encourages.

Siddiqi notes that it’s important to keep refining your vision as you take action steps toward your vision.

“When I focus my energy and concentration, I focus on the baby steps right in front of me. I don’t worry about spanning the distance. A lot of people I work with are really busy trying to figure out how to fix it and make it work. That’s not where the mojo is. That’s not where the magic is. That’s not where the miracles live. There is vision, and there is what is going to organically happen on the way to our vision,” Siddiqi reflects.


If you need help developing your ability to see the big picture, reach out to me for help.

Siddiqi Ray is an internationally acclaimed photographer, speaker, and coach whose work merges intuition, creative vision and pragmatic analysis to help people come into their own power, connect authentically, and build trust through visibility. Siddiqi has worked for over 30 years with entrepreneurs, Forbes 100 listed corporations and billionaires, and spiritual leaders, including The Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, several members of the Kennedy Family, and the Navy SEALS.


Higher ed: Branding your campus

Recently, my family and I traveled across two states to the Gulf Coast to visit the beach. My daughter is still at that wonderful age of resisting the notion of “potty breaks.” Half an hour after a pit stop, she insisted on stopping again–immediately. We passed two exits, no buildings or signs indicating businesses in sight. As we neared the third exit near Goodman, Mississippi, I encouraged my husband to take the exit. We were in luck. Three miles after exiting, we came across Holmes Community College. We’d hit the jackpot.

I’ve worked at four colleges/universities as a director of career services, academic advisor, and English faculty member. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about institutions of higher education–or any educational institution, for that matter–it’s this: you can form a pretty accurate first impression within five minutes of walking on campus. How? By paying attention to the way people treat you. Let’s extend this to any place of business. How many times have you walked into a restaurant, physician’s office, or boutique and been almost immediately turned off by the lack of warmth? How many times have you walked in for a job interview and felt immediately welcomed and at ease because of the way people treated you in the parking lot, the lobby, and hallways? If this isn’t proof that interpersonal skills–soft skills–make or break an organization’s ability to earn business, I don’t know what is.

32736559_670392302152_1795969454182498304_nCampus brand = people

Immediately after driving onto campus at Holmes Community College, people–faculty, staff, and students–waved, nodded, and verbally greeted us. When we entered the student center to find a restroom, the security guard smiled and asked if we needed help, a student opened the door for me and greeted me, and a woman walked out of an office to ask if we needed assistance all within a matter of 30 seconds. The women who worked in the bookstore were equally as friendly and helpful (and I insisted on purchasing a Holmes Bulldogs t-shirt to represent their excellent soft skills and campus brand).

Losing sight of people

Too often in higher education, we’re obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses. Bigger state-of-the-art buildings. Rad new programming ideas. Next, newer, tech. More students. I get it. It’s a business, right? We’re obsessed with the bottom line. We’re bean counting, as one of my former VP’s used to say as he shook his head sadly. We’re counting beans–and I understand why–but we ought to be careful that we don’t become obsessed with numbers. If we lose sight of people, our ability to attract and retain quality employees and students wains. If we sacrifice the quality of our human resources in order to boost the quantity of our student population, our students will ultimately suffer, too. 

And remember that first impression I was talking about, the one you feel when you walk on campus, the reflection of your campus brand? That’s not something you can fake. Students are smart. If your employees are content thanks to a positive workplace culture, your students (and potential students, their family members, potential donors, and alumni) will sense it. That becomes part of your brand. The opposite is true. If your employees are disgruntled, frustrated, and showing up simply out of obligation (or worse, to continue earning a paycheck), that is your brand.

The solution

The bottom line is this: the soft skills your employees possess translate into the vibe they emanate. That vibe becomes your campus brand.

If you want to improve your campus brand, improve your workplace culture. If you want to improve your culture, take a look at your employees’ soft skills. If you’re a higher education administrator, and you want to improve your employees’ soft skills, start by taking a look at your own. 

Ready and willing to take action to improve your campus brand by seeking soft skills solutions? Reach out to me for help.



The bravest thing a leader can do

What is the bravest thing any small business owner, leader, or manager can do? What is the boldest question a leader can ask? I propose that it’s this: “What’s my part of the problem?”

If the video isn’t playing properly click here.

Recently, a lifelong friend and small business owner contacted me for help with executive coaching, particularly in the area of soft skills training. He confessed that he felt overwhelmed by conflicts within his company related to internal communication, lack of collaboration, and systemic problems with corporate culture. What surprised me about our conversation is that he did not rant about his employees. He didn’t whine about their performance or attitudes. He did cite a few specific instances as examples of poor communication and difficulties in the workplace, but he primarily focused on his part of the problems.

Do you know how refreshing it is to offer executive career coaching and soft skills training to companies whose owners accept responsibility for their part of the problem? I think it’s incredibly brave when leaders step up to accept ownership of their  deficiencies. It’s even more powerful when they’re willing to do something to amend the situation by seeking help. “What can I do to make this right? How can I be a better boss?”

Brave questions lead to business solutions

These are the right questions! These are questions leading to solutions. These are questions generating return on investment, greater productivity, retention of excellent employees, improved morale, and better company culture.

This friend and business owner is willing to work on his part of the problem, and he will. But keep in mind that problems in the workplace typically involve multiple people. And when people are involved, things get messy. Each person usually contributes to the problems which exist in the workplace; you can’t pin a problem on one person most of the time. So each person, at some point, may need coaching or training (individually or as a group). For example, if a leader recognizes problems with communication within the company, it’s unlikely that there is only one team member responsible for the breakdown in communication. It takes at least two people to communicate.

Problem-solving is a collaborative process

While it’s great for a leader to take responsibility for his own actions, a leader cannot shoulder full responsibility for every single defect in the workplace, just as he can’t claim full responsibility for every single accomplishment. Teams fail and succeed collaboratively. Should the leader take initiative, step out bravely, and begin the process of coaching himself first? Certainly, if he desires to go that route. But he should not neglect to offer training/coaching to his team members either.

After the leader begins to see the results of coaching himself, it’s a good idea to pull the team in for training. I’ve always told people I manage, teach, coach, and mentor that I won’t expect them to do anything I haven’t done or am not willing to do myself. I think good leaders can operate by the same principle.

Undergoing executive coaching first—and then implementing team training for soft skills—works incredibly well. When the leader address his part of the problem first, seeks a solution, and takes actions to make changes, the team members see results. Why wouldn’t they want to follow the leader after they’ve seen him model problem-solving and solution-finding so well?

Can I help you identify your part of the problems within your team or small business? Contact me to discuss executive career coaching or soft skills training.

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